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Five Free Tools that improve my Productivity and Performance Everyday – Happy in the Now

Five Free Tools that improve my Productivity and Performance Everyday – Happy in the Now

One of the greatest and simplest tools for learning more and growing is doing more – said Washington Irving.  And doing more with less of everything (time and resources) just makes this journey more interesting. Delve into the online world for any area – be it collaboration, time management, social media – and there are so amazing tools available that can help improve your business productivity as an organization or as an individual. After a few trial and error cycles, there are a few tools/apps that I have come to depend on extensively over the last year, after I went solo, which go a long way in helping me save time and organize my work-life better. I have meant to write this post for some time now as a “thank you” to all the smart creators who not only build great products but also give access and support for basic versions in the “freemium” model. I would also love to get your inputs on the tools that you have found useful and cannot do without on a day-to-day basis.

Here are my five favorite desk-top tools that increase my productivity, reduce stress and are fun and easy to use:

Productivity Tool #1: Evernote – this is my virtual notebook, I carry it with me across the four or five devices that I do my work on every day.  I use it just like I would a notebook – to-do lists, meeting minutes, blog ideas, thoughts that need further thought…. I use the web clipper extension to save articles, pdfs, audio while browsing to come back to later. I have created different notebooks in Evernote to organize my data into research, to-dos, posts from my favorite writers (have one for Seth Godin for example). Using Ifttt, I have also created a menu that allows my tweets to be archived into my Evernote through Buffer – sounds complicated but took me 3-4 clicks to get that in place. As Evernote team proclaims, it really does help me remember everything, capture anything, access anywhere and find things fast!

Need more reasons why you need Evernote? Read http://lifehacker.com/5964285/whats-all-the-fuss-about-evernote-why-do-people-use-it?

Productivity Tool #2: Buffer – I am fairly active on Twitter and people ask me where I find the time to tweet all the time there. My secret is Buffer – it allows me to store my tweets and schedule them to be tweeted at different times of the day. So for one hour daily, I browse, read and then buffer my “finds” and thoughts of the day through their Chrome extension and voila – I am all set for the day. I have used buffer over the past year and they have made the product better and better and now offer some nifty analytical stats to help grow my online brand and influence. I remember I had some questions in the beginning (October 2011) and wrote them a mail – and Leo Widrich, the co-founder responded with a detailed explanation within an hour. And they still do that even now – they wowed me through their support and I remain a loyal user and benefit from buffer every day.  They also allow buffering for Facebook, LinkedIn etc and for multiple accounts.

Think Buffer is not for you? Here are some nifty secret hacks and lesser known ways to use Buffer from the team: http://blog.bufferapp.com/top-hidden-buffer-hacks-features-social-sharing?

Productivity Tool #3: Dropbox – I remember the days when you needed ftp to upload and download files to share –  sheer torture. Compare that to what Dropbox offers – it truly is Sharing simplified. Multiple clients, multiple devices, multiple locations, multiple file types – no problem, everything in sync. My files are always available for me (and secure). I have created different folders for clients where I am not on their enterprise network and given them access. A boon for remote workers like me, it helps me to share my work with my customers in a secure way (Dropbox has a great security system). I also use this for my business outsourcing and cloud backup for all my documents in one place – a legal folder, a finance folder, a travel folder and a collaterals folder.

There is a lot that you can do with Dropbox – http://lifehacker.com/5933884/top-10-clever-uses-for-dropbox

Productivity Tool #4: Skype  – At CeBIT, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner revealed that 33% of the world’s voice calls happen on Skype now. Skype is a favorite not just for the money I save for international client calls but for its free screen sharing feature. It allows me to walk through proposals and presentations for my clients, collaborate and work on documents together or hold team review sessions. Group sharing is not free but it is total value for money if you need to work with teams across multiple locations. I can always be available for my clients and team through Skype messaging on all my devices. I also use Microsoft OCS/Lync for screen sharing but have found Skype voice and video quality superior.

More tips on getting the best out of Skype here: http://www.businessproductivity.com/how-to-save-money-using-skype/

Productivity Tool #5: Google Chrome – I am still undecided whether Google is a productivity saver or killer for me. Every time I get into Google, I lose track of time – and sink into the Google ocean. But I don’t dare provoke the Google gods (after all, I owe the growing popularity of this blog to them) so I got to list them here. Google Chrome has changed the way I browse – I find it far more superior to Internet Explorer. The reason I list this as a tool that improves my productivity (apart from the simplicity and speed) is because of its easy sync-ability (I can carry my browser with my customizations across devices), extensions (like Buffer and Evernote) and apps (go search google chrome productivity apps – there are tons and you could fall in love with a couple).

There are lots more that you can do with Google:  10 great Google tools you need in your business workflow – http://www.continu-it.com/google-productivity-tools-small-business/

Bonus Productivity Tool:  Wordpress.com of course – it is that simple and easy that even I could become a blogger.

Anything you can do needs to be done, so pick up the tool of your choice and get started ~ Ben Linder

Have you used these tools? Have you used them any differently? Which desktop tools do you use every day to improve your productivity? I would love to hear back and learn from you

Pic Courtesy : http://www.flickr.com/photos/markop/1441643371/

How to: Stay Afloat This Festive Season – 5 Tips for Boosting Productivity

How to: Stay Afloat This Festive Season – 5 Tips for Boosting Productivity

The festive season is upon us and these are the times when we truly stretch ourselves, a lot being required of us both on the personal as well as the professional front. It is as though we are doing a limbo between work and home. To be able to make the most of the little time we have on our hands, in which we are expected to tackle a humongous work load, being a little mindful towards boosting productivity will help a great deal. Here are 5 things that we practice at Oorja Biz Ops to boost our productivity and we would love to share them with you. Read on:

Productivity Tip #1 – Do not be over ambitious, be realistic – Of course it is a great thing to try and exceed one’s own expectations, especially in the “World of Work”. However, when time is less and there is much to do, be pragmatic and create a to-do list of priority tasks. Categorize everything into ‘important’, ‘not important but essential’, ‘urgent’ and ‘important and urgent’. Then set about accomplishing the tasks which need your attention first. Be realistic when you set goals for yourself, it will save you a lot of stress and disappointment.

Productivity Tip #2 – No shame in seeking help – When you are not able to handle something, and know there are people willing to help you out, reach out. Don’t let your ego stop you from asking for help. You learn something new and learn how to solve the problem in a quicker and more efficient way. That way you won’t be stuck at a particular point forever, neglecting the other tasks which need your attention.

Productivity Tip #3 – Delegate wherever possible – If you have resources and a team at your disposal, learn how to delegate tasks. It will help both you as well as them. Being a control freak always has adverse effects on your productivity levels. It is impossible to micro manage everything. Also, do acknowledge and trust the talent of other people who have been hired because of their skills to handle the particular tasks. It helps you work in a team efficiently, while making your work progress seamlessly, faster and as productive as ever.

Productivity Tip #4 – Take breaks – Ever heard of a productive zombie? No, right? That is exactly why we wouldn’t recommend you having a death wish of working tirelessly until you finally turn into a zombie. There are ample researches and studies which have proven how crucial breaks are to boost productivity and help in retaining attention and focus. Take regular but small breaks in between your work, but be careful to not let the breaks stretch or spill over into time-consuming distractions. Which brings us to the next point.

Productivity Tip #5 – Have a Zero Distractions Policy – Understand that you are on a really tight schedule, and any time spent on unnecessary emails or browsing the internet is going to cost you. Shut out all distractions when you sit down to work and focus single-mindedly on what is in front of you. There are several productivity tools that can help you do this. Go by setting a time limit for each task and push yourself to do it within the time you have set for yourself. After, reward yourself with a cookie 🙂

Tell us what your favorite method of boosting productivity is, and we would be happy to write a whole new article on your inputs! After all, the World of Work is all about giving and receiving knowledge and experience.

Five Ways Sales Operations can Enable Sales Leadership – Business Operations Performance Management

Five Ways Sales Operations can Enable Sales Leadership – Business Operations Performance Management


The job of a sales person is to sell – to focus every minute of his/her work day selling – because if he/she is not, then no one else is! But the expectation from a sales person is not just sales, there are myriad activities that are essentially non-customer facing but are necessary – sales strategy, planning, reviews, forecasting, reporting and logging in data in CRM tools, inter-departmental coordination, the list goes on… chipping away into the 2000 hours in the year that the sales person has to sell. Various surveys suggest that almost two-thirds of a sales person’s week is spent doing something other than selling. Less time in front of customer is equal to less sales – simple. And that is where the sales operations function can step in. Sales operation is essentially the processes, infrastructure and administrative support necessary to help a sales organization run effectively, efficiently and in support of business strategies and objectives. There is immense pressure on increasing the sales productivity given the drive for better top-line and bottom-line growth in all organizations, big or small today and the complex selling environment. A good sales operations team if properly structured and empowered can increase rate of sales and repeat sales, cut costs and improve margins all leading to a sales productivity increase.

Sales Operations can do the balancing act between strategy and execution from the annual, quarterly and monthly planning and analysis to the day-to-day support of the sales force – all the while enabling the front line salespeople to meet and exceed their sales and margin quotas. Here are five ways in which sales operations can be the sales productivity accelerators for the sales leadership:

Sales Enabler #1 – Identify the Focus based on the Goal: What is the company’s goal for the period – is it top line growth or bottom line growth? The Sales operations team can work closer to field-facing sales in times when top-line growth is the highest priority or work closer to internal organization-facing operations in times when bottom-line growth is the highest priority. The balance that has to be done here by the sales operations team is not to become a “sales prevention” team nor allow a “cowboy/cowgirl” style of unregulated selling. This is what will drive sales operations focus and roles (great inputs by Eryc Branham here) for the period to support and enable sales leadership. For example – field facing activities like account planning, RFP support, lead generation and field marketing campaigns could take precedence over commission planning, contract vetting and approvals and finance alignment.

Sales Enabler #2 – Provide Knowledge out of the Data: With all the CRM and Social Media tools and technology available to sales today, data collection is not a problem (if you have solved the technology problem that is – Enterprise resource projects are notorious for their low success rates for achieving the intended outcomes – another area where sales operations can support sales leadership in the selection of the right tools, in getting them to perform the way they should and in increasing tool usage and acceptability within sales teams along with ensuring data quality). What is needed is extraction of the right set of data, comparing it against trends and benchmarks and providing  recommendations to the Sales leaders to help them decide the strategic direction they need to take.  Sales Operations can be the expert on and the single source of authentic knowledge for the sales organization.

Sales Enabler #3 – Process Setting and Ownership:  An effective sales process can go a long way in improving the win rate and increasing the repeat sales. A sales process is effective when it balances the needs of three stakeholders – the needs of the customer, the needs of sales person to meet his/her numbers and the needs of the rest of the organization to be able to execute on the sale. The sales operation team can not only help in the creation of the process but also take ownership of its documentation, adoption and implementation and support the sales people through opportunity to a win-win for all stakeholders.

Sales Enabler #4 – Metrics and Dashboards: One of my favorite topics and pet projects. Metrics need to be aligned to business strategy and objectives – metrics should not only measure the past performance but also act as leading indicators into the future and how it is developing over time. The selection of the right metrics (out of the many sales metrics that are used today) for the sales dashboards also depends on the audience. For example, leading metrics for the sales reps would need to be around their pipeline (sales cycle times and win/loss ratios per stage, etc. to determine pipeline volume requirements and key selling strategies). Sales Leaders would need to have consolidated pipeline and trend information and associated metrics (% of stuck opportunities, overall opportunity age, etc) so that they can help their teams achieve the desired outcomes. The sales operations team can model the data and propose the right sales metrics to the sales team and sales leaders based on what insights they need to meet and exceed their performance objectives.

Sales Enabler #5 – Be the Bridge between Sales and the rest of the Organization: The sales team has to be customer facing and focused on selling and winning deals. But, they can’t do this alone – they need the support of many functions (marketing, finance, delivery, legal, etc) within the organization to succeed. The sales operations team can be the liaison between the sales teams and other functions and help trigger a customer focused culture within the organization by reducing inter-function friction. The key here is of course to work towards driving a respect and trust based culture through providing the understanding of each other’s priorities and challenges. Sometime, sales operations will be the advocate and sometimes the buffer to balance conflicting pressures – a less stressed  happy sales engine will be the result.

So in the end, the sales leader should be willing to assign and empower the sales operations team so that they in turn can enable the sales leadership by giving them the gift of time and the necessary insights to achieve the balance between meeting short-term quarterly expectations and the long-term planning needed to ensure the next million/billion dollars.

Where else do you think the sales operations team can enable sales leadership and help the sales force be more effective ? What challenges have you faced as a sales operations professional ? I would love to hear back and learn from you.